Azara Blog: Pro-AV people do not seem to understand what a safe seat is

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Date published: 2011/04/02

The BBC says:

The alternative vote system would make "rather average politicians" work harder to keep voters' support, former BBC director general Greg Dyke says.

At a campaign launch for a Yes vote in May's referendum, he said MPs would be denied "jobs for life" by holding safe seats if the voting system changed.

Mr Dyke and the other pro-AV people who are pushing this line (since they seem to have no other reason to change the current system to AV) seem not to understand what a "safe seat" is. A safe seat is one where the majority of people vote for one party consistently over time. MPs in these areas would win just as easily under the AV system as in the current first-past-the-post system, without even having to count second preference votes. The only place where AV might make a difference is in marginal seats, and even there it is unlikely to make much of a difference. For example, in Cambridge the Lib Dems did not get half the vote the last election (and no MP in Cambridge has recently) but almost certainly they would still have won under the AV system. The pro-AV people really need to come up with a more plausible rationale for changing the current system. The one difference AV will make is to allow minor extremist parties (the Greens and UKIP in particular) to garner more attention, and by a fluke, the odd one of them might get elected.

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